Breedlove Lu'au Concert Ukulele Ghost Burst E ukulele - REVIEW

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19 Oct 2019

Breedlove Lu'au Concert Ukulele Ghost Burst E ukulele - REVIEW

It's always nice when I feature a ukulele brand for the first time on Got A Ukulele, and even nicer when it's a brand I've respected in musical instruments for many years. This is the Breedlove Lu'au Ghost Burst E Concert ukulele.

Breedlove Lu'au Ukulele

Breedlove are a US company from Bend, Oregon founded by Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson while both working at Taylor Guitars. What resulted was a series of extremely well received acoustic guitars designed and built in Oregon and going back to 1991. The business was taken over by Larry's brother Kim who since stepped down from running the show to work as master luthier and designer to the company. Amongst other instruments Kim designed he was also behind the launch of instruments designed in Oregon (and built from Oregon woods), but constructed in the far east. That's where the Breedlove ukuleles sit.

All their current ukuleles form part of the Lu'au range of instruments, and they are mainly concerts but also includes a tenor. They also come with and without pickup systems and in a variety of outer finishes over the same wood. And the wood is part of the key here, as they are all made from Oregon grown Myrtle which is then sent to China for construction to Kim's design.

This 'Ghost Burst' finish is one of five concerts in the range, and is certainly the first grey ukulele finish I have ever seen! It's a traditionally shaped double bout ukulele and really rather attractive. The top on this model is all solid myrtle, whereas the back and sides are laminate myrtle. It's two pieces of wood for each section, and all are finished in the burst finish. That is to say that the grey finish is then covered in a blacker stain which is buffed back to create the burst. It's rather lovely in the main though I do think they should have left the sides plain grey rather than adding the dark patches in the waist which are not buffed out as smoothly on the edges.

Breedlove Lu'au Ukulele body

The bridge here is a tie bar style with an interesting shape. It's made from ovangkol, an African relative of rosewood and is very tidy. Sitting in as slot in that is an unspecified saddle but I think it's bone.

Breedlove Lu'au Ukulele bridge

Decoration goes further than the burst effect on this model, as you also get houndstooth / rope maple and ebony inlays around the edge of the top and soundhole. I think that looks great against the grey burst. There are also black binding strips to the top and back joints. The whole body is then finished in a gloss which is both tidy and really helps to make the burst stand out.

Breedlove Lu'au Ukulele decoration

Looking inside (in detail now - on account of my new borescope!) and things are extremely tidy. The linings are notched and neat with no glue and there is also a tidy tail block which will help if you want a strap button.  The braces though do look a touch chunky and 'industrial'. The Breedlove website says that the ukulele is based on Kim's 'custom bracing'. I'm really not sure what is custom about these. They just look a bit fat and oblong to me.

Breedlove ukulele inside

What is also noticeable is something I don't like to see on ukuleles... A pickup with side mounted controls. It's a Breedlove branded system and adds in a really chunky side control box which I simply don't like. Sure, they are fuss free for beginners, but it's just adding things you don't need to a tiny instrument. On the plus side, it uses a cell battery rather than a massively heavy 9 volter, but still. That exits the ukulele at the offset jack socket on the lower bout. Whilst some players like the offset jack, I personally don't as i've seen a cable in this position snagged and rip a hole in the side of the ukulele. It's much stronger in the tail block where it can double up as a strap button. I'd rather this was available without the pre-amp stuff at all though, yet sadly, you can only get the Ghost Burst model WITH it. Breedlove do make a non electric version (into which you could easily fit a simple passive pickup), but it comes without the burst effect. Shame.

breedlove ukulele pickup

Up to the neck and this is made from mahogany with a very hard to spot joint at the heel. If there is a second joint anywhere it's invisible! It's really pleasing to note that it is satin finish, not gloss, meaning no grippy feel on the fretting hand. Some will perhaps find the wood colour jarring against the grey burst and think the colour should follow, but I'd take that look for the satin bare finish myself. The profile is pleasingly flatter than most far eastern instruments and whilst the nut is an average but not tiny 36mm, it comes in at a more comfortable 30mm from G to A. It's a very comfortable neck.

Breedlove Lu'au Ukulele fingerboard

That is topped with an ovangkol fingerboard in good condition. It is however stained darker on the top which is noticeable because at various points down the edge, the finishing is rather scruffy and the lighter base wood is showing through. It's noticeable in the picture of the soundhole above and rather irritating on any otherwise well finished ukulele.  It has outward facing dots at the 5th, 7th, 10th, double 12th and 15th with repeating side dots that include an extra at the 3rd. The edges are stained to almost hide the edges and you get 17 frets joined at the 12th. They are all dressed well.

Beyond the nut is a an attractive assymetric headstock, faced in dark wood and holding the Breedlove logo in pearl inlay. This is nice.

Breedlove Lu'au Ukulele headstock

Tuning is provided by unbranded chrome open gears with small black buttons. They clearly look to be decent quality as you can see from the gear pieces and work well. They might as well be Grover.

Breedlove Lu'au Ukulele tuners

Completing your package are Aquila strings and a good quality branded padded gig bag. Matt Warnes at World of Ukes, Breedlove dealer and the chap who kindly lent this one to me suggests that these sound better with a string change to fluorocarbon. That may be true, but my policy is always to review instruments based on stock strings. With strings - your mileage may vary! As you will see below though, I think it sounds pretty good regardless! Anyway, for that package you are looking at an RRP of $332 and a sale price in the UK of £299. It's a pretty chunky price for a Chinese made instrument with only a solid top. Sure, there is a good reliable name here together with some nice finishing, so maybe that's a bit harsh? On the other hand, you can get an all solid Ohana CK35 or Kala SMHCE with a pickup system for a fair bit less than this, or even a solid topped Snail SUC-M2 with a pickup for half the price.  Sure, they don't have the looks of this one at all, but still.. Hmmm.

In that hands it feels solid and secure. It's not the lightest ukulele on the block though. Whilst it's not uncomfortably heavy you do know that pickup gubbins is in there giving it a bit of extra weight. On the plus side, it's nicely balanced.

The first thing that struck me was the very good sustain which does go on for a fair while. That bodes well, particularly for melody lines. The volume is also good so it's ticking the right boxes so far.

The tone is really nicely balanced too, which is to say that, even with a re-entrant G, you are getting a good mix of the bass and treble end of the mix. It gives it a meaty core sound with a nice chimey top to it. It's anything but strident and harsh. It's extremely pleasant. Strumming it creates a good jangle as the notes resonate together, but nothing muddy happens with each string holding it's own in the mix. A nice clarity to the sound. Fingerpicking is particularly pretty I found, and the higher registers really ring out, helped by the good sustain. This is a very pretty sounding instrument.

Breedlove Lu'au Ukulele back

All in all, I fell for this ukulele as soon as I saw the look of it. It's an extremely handsome one. There are one or two minor finish issues, but I adore the grey burst. It also sounds great too with a great balanced tone and pretty sustain. I really just wish they offered it with no pickup in this colour, or at least toned the electrics down to a passive system. I mean, it's not as if you can take the pickup out - you'll have a hole in the side! My final and main question is still with the price though. As pretty as it is, for an instrument that is only solid topped, £299 seems a bit heavy to me. Still, if you have the dough, this is a great ukulele that not only looks the part but will be a reliable performer too. Worth a look if you like your pretty stuff because, thankfully, the sound and playability matches the looks here.

https://breedlovemusic.com
http://worldofukes.co.uk/shop-ukulele-store

UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Scale: Concert
Body: Solid Myrtle top, laminate Myrtle back and sides
Neck: Mahogany
Bridge: Ovangkol
Saddle: Unspecified
Fingerboard: Ovangkol
Frets: 17 (12 to body)
Nut: Unspecified
Nut width: 36mm (30mm G to A)
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Strings: Aquila
Extras: Breedlove branded active pickup system. Branded gig bag
Price: £299

UKULELE PROS

Great head turning looks
Great finish in nearly all departments
Satin neck
Nice sustain
Good volume
Balanced range of tones

UKULELE CONS

Somewhat expensive
One or two minor finish issues
I would go for the model without the overly large pre-amp

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 7.5 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.8 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




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